Surrender is a common topic on the spiritual path because it is so essential to acknowledging the here now. Primarily, people are actively engaged with fantasies in their minds. They are engaged with fantasies of the ego that project ideas and feelings onto situations rather than seeing the reality of them. The ego is also replicating certain feelings and ideas within people. By replication, I simply mean that it repeats, and that gives people a sense of familiarity with “who” they feel like they are.

But as we develop on the spiritual path, we realize we have no idea who we are. We realize that we’re simply repeating things we’ve been told and seen, and all of that has nothing to do with who we are. They’re just old patterns we keep revitalizing. We also discover repeating feeling-states in our bodies. Sometimes we make ourselves feel good, and sometimes we regularly make ourselves feel bad via self-hate issues.

However, rather than getting in a fight with ourselves and thinking we should be different, we learn to surrender. We learn to let go of these fantasies and be here now. The longer we put our attention here and now, the more we realize about ourselves and about life. From those realizations, new ways of feeling and living that are organic and dynamic become possible. We become untethered from an ego mind stuck in past experiences and ideas.

With that said, there are a lot of misunderstandings about surrender that lead people down the wrong path and into great confusion. I want to cover a few of them to help you avoid such mistakes.

Misunderstanding #1: Surrender Is Doing Nothing all the Time

Firstly, many people think that surrender is doing nothing. People hear others talk about non-action, and they confuse that as meaning not doing anything at all. Non-action is the space of awareness. It is simply being. That space of awareness is eternally still, which is why it is called stillness. Placing our attention there is part of learning to pay attention to who we are trying to be and really seeing ourselves and life clearly.

While the space of awareness “does nothing,” we as human being do things. It’s part of being alive. So what you learn is by surrendering to the moment, you find the most natural, intuitive, and intelligent way of acting or not-acting in any given situation.

Inaction and Non-action on the Spiritual Path

Misunderstanding #2: Surrender Is Being Lazy

Much of Western culture prizes taking action. The ability to act is important. It’s part of living, and so too is rest. Resting is important to regenerate and heal ourselves.

Additionally, a lot of times people do things like meditation and otherwise low activity practices that Western culture may see as a waste of time or laziness. But a lot of stuff can shift and be revealed in that quietness as many of you know. There’s nothing particularly lazy about meditation.

Finally, the confusion that surrender is lazy can be a way that many people attempt to talk themselves out of facing themselves. While meditation is just one way people can practice surrender, it tends to show people what’s going on inside of them, and many people don’t want to deal with themselves.

How to Meditate

Misunderstanding #3: Surrender Means Life Will Just Give Me Everything

Some of Rumi’s ecstatic poetry talks about how things seem to be constantly given, and many people conclude that they don’t have to do anything on the spiritual path and they’ll get everything. The problem is misunderstanding what “everything” means here. Rumi is talking about the profound sense of being. Being rejects nothing, and everything is accepted. In this way, they feel one with everything; they feel like they’ve received everything.

Additionally, a lot of flow is possible where it just seems like everything is doing itself. It’s kind of like how a child grows without trying. He is not trying to grow his body; it is happening for him. There is a quality of growth like that available in people, but usually, that means someone has deeply dissolved their ego and doesn’t reject what is coming. The ego is good at shutting out a lot of things, and the realized individual is open to all, which means s/he receives many beautiful things that the ego self would have rejected.

However, the realized individual also “receives” many things that aren’t as “enjoyable” in an ego sense. The realized individual learns to receive sadness, physical pain, fear, and other difficult experiences. But even these become gifts of their own accord in a deeply surrendered state.

Misunderstanding #4: Surrender Only Happens in Meditation

It’s very common for people to identify certain spiritual practices as a practice in surrender. People come to meditation, and they’re taught one aspect of surrender which involves watching thoughts instead of actively thinking them while sitting quietly. This leads many people to believe that surrender is nothing but sitting and watching thoughts, and it leads back into the idea that surrender is a kind of inaction.

However, meditation is practice. Practice is meant to prepare us for other things. In this case, meditation is practice for living life in surrender. We can be surrendered to any situation and neutrally observe it. We can be surrendered and take action. The quality of action from surrender, however, tends to be very different.

So if you think you need to be meditating to surrender, you don’t. Surrender is a spiritual practice that comes with you into any and every aspect of your life.

Misunderstanding #5: Surrender Is a Specific Experience or Action

Modern day English is an action-oriented language that is used to describe experiences. As such, that frames how we discuss a lot of things. It makes it sound like “surrender” is actively doing something. Rather, surrender is more like a cessation of action…initially. Early on the spiritual path, we do less to start to get some perspective and understanding of ourselves. However, true surrender is simply that awareness that is not resisting any moment, feeling, thought, body sensation, or anything else. True surrender is that space of presence within you that is always here.

In that way, surrender isn’t an experience or an action. It just sounds that ways because of the way English and many other languages are.

Surrendering Again and Again

Language fails us a lot on the spiritual path. In the above subhead, it sounds like surrender is an action once again. I’m merely encouraging you to place your attention in the space of awareness. Even this sounds like more of an action that it actually is.

Whatever you are feeling is fine. If you are feeling angry, watch that. You are surrendered to anger. Your body and all the emotional and intellectual processes that probably created that anger are likely to continue with that feeling for awhile. But typically, that all breaks down the longer you surrender. In this way, a lot of people feel good from “surrender,” and that good feeling is often confused as surrender, awareness, presence, stillness, and other many other words that describe the same space. That good feeling is secondary. It can arise when we no longer are harassing ourselves with our egos, and it’s a nice little reward to encourage people to keep surrendering.

It’s Okay: You’re a Human Being

During our days, it’s very easy to get caught up in our humanness. We get caught up in emotions, thoughts, and body sensations. It’s okay! But on the path to letting go of attachments and the suffering they cause, surrender is the word of the day. So keep surrendering. Keep coming back to the present moment and simply observing it. It’s so simple, and new realizations tend to continue to emerge the more you surrender.

For some more thoughts on surrender and letting go of ego, you may enjoy these posts:

Surrender, Surrender, and Keep Surrendering

How to Let Go of Your Ego


I'm a spiritual teacher who helps people find freedom from suffering.


  1. Excellent article with lots of food for thought, Jim. Thank you! Sitting here surrendering into a shift of mindset. : )


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